Aboriginal activists in Western Australia are gearing up for a rally on November 12 to protect remote communities in the face of federal government attacks. It will follow a September 16 rally against state government threats to Aboriginal heritage and an October 23 rally against ongoing Black deaths in custody. The federal government announced on September 24 that it would withdraw funding for 180 remote Aboriginal communities in WA. It will grant $90 million to the WA government for a two-year “transition period”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated his government plans to increase the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Before last year’s election, Abbott promised the Australian people that “the GST won't change, full stop, end of story”. But on October 27, he called for a “mature debate” on the topic, making it clear his government intends to increase GST revenue.
More than 800 police carried out simultaneous raids on houses in Sydney and Brisbane on September 18. Fifteen people were detained as a result, but only two were charged. The high profile police raid – coordinated with the media – has been described as the “nation’s biggest counter terrorism operation in history”. It comes one week before the government plans to bring anti-democratic “terror laws” to a vote in parliament and as troops are deployed for a new Iraq war.
Forty thousand people marched against the federal government and its budget in over 30 locations on the weekend of August 30-31. This was smaller than the three similar mobilisations in March, May and July, but shows there is still a strong community sentiment against the budget. All campaigns have ups and downs — no grassroots movement ever grows continually upwards. The smaller numbers reflect the fact that the initial raw anger against the budget has passed. To maintain a campaign in this context, people need to have confidence that their efforts can bear fruit.
The Socialist Alternative club at the University of Western Australia had its “club privileges” suspended on August 13. In effect, this amounts to a suspension of the club's affiliation to the Student Guild, which could be a prelude to complete disaffiliation. The issue seems to have flared over posters produced for a campus forum on the topic “Why Israel is a terrorist state”. After initially approving the posters, and allowing them to be displayed in Guild areas on campus, on the day of the forum the Guild sent an email to the club saying that all the posters had been removed.
Not a week, nor even a day, goes by without a new outrage from the Tony Abbott government. One recent outrage was when Abbott declared that Australia was “unsettled” before the British invasion — taking us back to the days of terra nullius. This stand, alongside plans to quarantine how young people spend welfare payments while earmarking billions of dollars for unneeded (and technically dubious) fighter jets, indicates the character of the Abbott government.
Prime minister Tony Abbott chalked up his first budget win on June 17 when the 2% “levy” on high income earners passed both houses of parliament. The next day, the Greens trumpeted the emergence of a double dissolution “trigger” when the Senate rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It is no coincidence that Abbott wanted the temporary tax on high-income earners to be the first budget measure passed. He wants people to believe his lie that “the burden” of this budget is “shared” by all sections of the community.
“At the end of the day,” Bella Bropho of the Swan Valley Nyungah Community told Green Left Weekly, “we want that land returned to us.” She was referring to the Lockridge camp site which was home to the community until it was closed by the Western Australian government in 2003. Despite the closure, the community has maintained a continuous connection with the site and still meets there every week. At 5pm on June 10, government contractors moved in to remove fences and “desecrate” vegetation that was planted by community members.
For the first time in Australian history, construction workers are facing government moves to seize houses and cars in relation to an industrial dispute. The 33 workers affected took part in an eight-day strike in north-west WA in 2008. Mick Buchan of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) told the ABC that the dispute between workers and the company was resolved at the time. “It was some time later that the ABCC [Australian Building Construction Commission] intervened and brought charges against individuals”, he said.
The Western Australia senate election re-run has resulted in a big drop in support for the major parties and significant swings to the Greens and the Palmer United Party (PUP). Greens, PUP and Labor have won one seat each while the Liberals have won two seats. The final seat will be decided by preferences and is expected to go to either Liberal or Labor.